It’s All Over!

After 11 days the occupation of the Old Schools’ Combination Room has come to an end. Find out what went on with The Tab’s full retrospective.

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After 11 days, the student occupation of the Old Schools’ Combination Room has finally ended.

Even the most dedicated Tab-aholic may not have read every entry in our occupation blog, so we’ve put together a retrospective look at the week and a half of activity from the Old Schools. Here goes.

Things began with a march against the proposed tuition fee rises and education cuts, which was held on 24th November and culminated with an invasion of King’s lawn.

Then, on the 26th; just 48 hours after this initial demonstration, the protestors managed to organise a flash mob storming of the Senior Combination Room in Senate House, setting up camp.

The next 11 days saw: demonstrations, court orders, food donations, poetry readings, lectures and much more, not to mention the sparking of one of the most contentious debates to hit Cambridge in recent years.

Over the first weekend, there was a great deal of pain-staking discussion, as the demonstrators collaborated to make the aims of their actions clear.

The occupation proved divisive from the start, and although many people expressed support for the movements, others condemned it. Gabriel Latner set up the Facebook group Cambridge Students AGAINST the Occupation on Sunday evening, and by the end of the occupation it had gained 689 fans.

On Monday, the occupiers released a set of demands to the University; saying they would not leave the Combination Room until the university publicly condemned the cuts, and agreed never to privatise.

The university failed to reply, and instead took the occupiers to County Court to secure an injunction.

Academics began to speak out in support of the occupation, and a petition organised by Dr Priyamvada Gopal had received over 200 signatures from uni staff by Monday evening.

On Tuesday, a second protest was held in Market Square, but this proved less popular than previous one as occupiers failure to mobilise.

As the week progressed, tensions grew between the occupiers (who wanted to open dialogues) and the uni management (who refused to negotiate with students while they were still in occupation).

The occupiers put further pressure on administrators on Wednesday, by staging a noisy protest outside their offices, but this had little effect.

A travelling Ceilidh band visited the Old Schools on Wednesday evening, treating students to some traditional Scottish dancing, and putting the party back in party political activism.

Protestors continued to issue pleas to uni bigwigs, focusing their anger on Vice Chancellor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, and by Thursday he had given some ground, saying the uni were prepared to receive but not discuss the occupiers demands.

Friday was labelled a “day of action”, and saw the blockade of all the entrances to the Old Schools, preventing all uni admin staff from getting into their offices.

Police presence was high, and after the threat of forcible eviction from the doorways, protestors decided to call off the blockade and marched back up to Occupation chanting: “you say cut back, we say fight back!”

The afternoon saw flash protests at the Guild Hall and the first attempt by police to forcibly evict the occupiers, although this proved unsuccessful.

The movement then reached its climax on the second Sunday of the occupation, after occupiers called a General Assembly.

Hundreds of people attended; both students and locals, and they resolved to take a united and ongoing stand against the proposed cuts.

Then, yesterday, the occupation finally came to an end after a demonstration outside Senate House, where the Vice Chancellor and the university Council met to discuss the demands of the occupiers.

The Vice Chancellor refused to make any promises and the outcome of the meeting remains unclear.

Cambridge Defend Education, who were responsible for the occupation, insist that although the occupation has ended, this is just the beginning of protests.

The occupation has been controversial and we’re keen to hear your thoughts; don’t forget to comment below.